March 11, 1936- February 13, 2016
Associate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead of apparent natural causes Saturday on a luxury resort in West Texas, federal officials said.
Scalia, 79, was a guest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort in the Big Bend region south of Marfa.
According to a report, Scalia arrived at the ranch on Friday and attended a private party with about 40 people. When he did not appear for breakfast, a person associated with the ranch went to his room and found a body.
Chief U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia, of the Western Judicial District of Texas, was notified about the death from the U.S. Marshals Service.
U.S. District Judge Fred Biery said he was among those notified about Scalia’s death.
“I was told it was this morning,” Biery said of Scalia’s death. “It happened on a ranch out near Marfa. As far as the details, I think it’s pretty vague right now as to how,” he said. “My reaction is it’s very unfortunate. It’s unfortunate with any death, and politically in the presidential cycle we’re in, my educated guess is nothing will happen before the next president is elected.”
The U.S. Marshal Service, the Presidio County sheriff and the FBI were involved in the investigation.
Officials with the law enforcement agencies declined to comment.
A federal official who asked not to be named said there was no evidence of foul play and it appeared that Scalia died of natural causes.
A gray Cadillac hearse pulled into the ranch Saturday afternoon and left about 5 p.m. The hearse came from Alpine Memorial Funeral Home.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott released a statement Saturday afternoon, calling Scalia a man of God, a patriot and an “unwavering defender of the written Constitution.”
“He was the solid rock who turned away so many attempts to depart from and distort the Constitution,” Abbott said. “We mourn his passing, and we pray that his successor on the Supreme Court will take his place as a champion for the written Constitution and the Rule of Law. Cecilia and I extend our deepest condolences to his family, and we will keep them in our thoughts and prayers.”
Scalia’s death has far-reaching implications for the Supreme Court and a round of major cases the justices are set to decide this summer, including Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, which challenges the university’s affirmative action policy, plus a case that contests Obama’s immigration policy and another that reexamines the meaning of “one person, one vote,” said former U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez.
President Barack Obama is unlikely to successfully name a new justice to replace Scalia before his second presidential term ends, Gonzalez said, because Congress will block any appointment he tries to make.
“I don’t see that the Republican-led Senate would confirm anybody chosen by President Obama,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez only met Scalia once, when he spotted the justice walking in the U.S. Capital to view a Supreme Court exhibit. Gonzalez asked him how Scalia was doing; Scalia said, “Fine.”
“I prevailed in my only exchange with the Supreme Court,” Gonzalez said.
Scalia was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan.